Interview with a Trade Show Executive: Amsterdam RAI’s Denise Capello

December 3, 2014

As part of an ongoing series, TSNN Reporter Traci Browne has been profiling trade show executives and asking them probing questions like if time travel were possible, where would you go and why? For this interview we’re lucky enough to chat with Denise Capello with Amsterdam RAI. I met Denise a few years ago at SISO and not only is she brilliant, but she’s also fun to hang out with.

Denise Capello
Business Acquisition Manager
Amsterdam RAI
Years in the industry: 12

Traci Browne: Where did you grow up? What was your adolescent experience like? 

Denise Capello: I grew up in Curacao, a small island in the Caribbean. I have such fond memories of my youth there, living the island life. BBQ on the beach on Sunday, surrounded by your friends and family. I moved to the Netherlands in ’95 to attend the university of Maastricht (most southern part of the Netherlands.

TB: What was the first show you went to? What do you remember most about it?

DC: During my college years, I worked as a hostess in the events industry. The first show I went to was a consumer show called Femina (in Rotterdam – Netherlands), I was promoting grape juice, and it sold like crazy. I most remember the interaction between the exhibitors; at the end of the show, I would come home with new nails, polished shoes and stuff I never knew I needed

TB: What show are you working on currently? What makes you excited about it?

DC: In my new role, I am responsible for partnerships and acquisitions of new shows for our own portfolio. This is a new role within the company, which means for the most part starting from scratch. We are no Reed or UBM, nor do we have the facility size of the German Messes. We need to find our own way in this ‘game’. Finding the answers to questions like, what do we want? what fits our corporate strategy? what interests the stakeholders in the city? what are the financial restrictions etc.? If we are successful,l our company will continue to grow. The dynamics and to actually play a role in this just gives me so much energy!

TB: What was your first job? Did you learn any valuable lessons or tools that you have brought with you into your current career?

DC: My first real job was for a company that built online virtual communities. I was responsible for the sales for some of these communities. We were bringing professionals together online on unbiased platforms sponsored by a number of players for that specific industry. I still believe we were just too soon and the burst of the internet bubble took the company down with it. In 2002, the company filed for bankruptcy. I learned to value people who give everything for their own company. It makes me understand the emotions behind selling your own little baby (read tradeshow) and various traits to find a potential buyer.

TB: When did you become interested in working in the industry? How did you get started in the trade show industry?

DC: As a professional,  my first show was the Urology Conferenc,  which took place in Anaheim at that time. This was a time when the restrictions to the pharmaceutical industry were just a fraction of what they are nowadays. The atmosphere, the enormous booths, the professionals left such an impression on me. This was when I decided that if I ever changed jobs, I was going to work in the events industry.

TB: Do you have any hobbies? (woodworking, birding, knitting, Herpetoculture).

DC: I love to swim. The sound of the water when you go under has the most relaxing effect on me. And if it means I am actually working out at the same tim e…

TB: Do you have any pets? We want to know all about them if you do.

DC: We have a membership to the zoo, does that count? I grew up having 2 dogs, which I loved very much, but in the Caribbean they live in the garden. In the Netherland,  it would mean having them in my house and with the amount of rain we have you can imagine the mess (let alone the smell)… Also our busy schedule doesn’t allow for any pets at the moment, although I think my boys will pressure us for a pet at some point.

TB: What’s on your iPod?

DC: Actually a little bit of everything; my Latin favorites like Marc Anthony, Prince Royce, Juan Luis Guerra; my eighties memories; Michael Jackson, Prince, Salt’n Peppa, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Aerosmith and of course all European house; Afrojack, Hardwell, Armin van Buren.

 TB: It’s the day before the show and the CDC has just announced a zombie apocalypse. Your first thought it to …

1. Immediately book a flight out of town. Every man for himself.

2. Call your attorney to find out if your cancellation insurance covers you for a zombie apocalypse.

3. Zombies Schmombies…you’ve been planning this for a year. The doors will open at 8 a.m. as scheduled. (with all possible precautions in place)

4. Turn the show into a big party with open bar including top shelf liquors.

DC: #3

TB: If time travel was possible, where would you go and why? (You cannot choose the future because it hasn’t happened yet and there is the possibility you may have to stay put wherever you travel to… So answer wisely.)

DC: Back to the Caribbean in the 19th century when slavery was still going on. Action at that time could have changed the position of people of color now.

TB: Name three people you would love to have lunch with? (Living, dead, famous, infamous, unknown …)

DC: Princess Maxima of the Netherlands, Angelina Jolie and my 3 best friends, as we all live in different countries and very rarely get to spend quality time together.

TB: What are your future goals? (Career, education, travel, etc.)

DC: Grow Amsterdam RAI by adding new shows to our portfolio within the next 2 years, focus on getting a new business degree, support my kids to be the best they can be, help them to be confident and kind, travel to Bali, South Africa and Australia with my husband and kids (go Bucket list!)

We wish you all the best growing Amsterdam RAI, who wouldn’t want to have an event there? Also, I’m not really a kid person but I’d be happy to be your nanny when you travel.

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